Monday, August 24, 2015

About to Erupt

Mt Mcloughlin Oregon
On August 24, in the year 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius awoke and the town of Pompeii died.  It wasn't the first time it erupted and surely won't be the last.

Today marks that anniversary and once again I am sitting at my computer, writing on the second book in my middle grade novel series with a historical, time twist, Double Time: About to Erupt will tell the story of a boy and his brother living in Pompeii in the months before the eruption.  It will also tell the story of a boy and his brother, living in Portland, Oregon in the months leading up to Mt. St. Helens eruption.  As in the Double Time: On the Oregon Trail book, the past and future will have a chance to intermingle and influence the fate of the stories characters.  My basic premise for this series is that there is an old Egyptian lap desk, and that as various people have owned it over its 3,000 year lifespan, if they are in similar situations, sometimes what they see when they open it is not their possessions but those of the other person.

Here is what I have for the beginning:







Chapter 1

     Thirteen year old Bryan Gregory sometimes felt like he should have been born with gills and webbed feet.  With all the rain that they got here in Oregon, he felt like the inside of his lungs had started to rust. Whatever the truth of the matter was, he was home and ill with another fever and cough and a chest congestion which had been lingering for days.  Mom had taken him to the Dr. who had prescribed antibiotics and diagnosed Bronchitis again.
     It wasn't so bad to be sick on a school day, and sleep in, and have Dad brew him a cup of hot tea with honey when he finally crawled from bed and walked out to flop on the couch with his blanket still around his shoulders. 
     It was not so fun to be inside, coughing until his ribs screamed in pain and it felt like his lungs were bing chewed into pieces by some giant mouth, clamping down on his chest with vice like jaws if he dared to try to inhale. Especially miserable to feel so bad yesterday, a Saturday when the plan had been to take his younger brother, Mark, and his best friend to go hiking in the fall beauty of the Columbia River Gorge with Mom and Dad.  No-one had gone then, hoping that another day on antibiotics and Bryan would be feeling up to going Sunday instead.
     Bryan loved to be outdoors, rain or shine. Although lately it was more, heavy rain or misty rain or light drizzle.  So he was home on the couch and the rain was pounding the roof. Mom and Dad had opted for an indoor day in Portland this Sunday.  They were taking his brother to OMSI to see a display on the very thing his class happened to be studying, prehistoric mammals. After the Science museum they were planning on going to a large, indoor fund-raising flea Market.  His parents loved to search old treasures from among other people's leftovers. He didn't mind being left out on that but he suspected that he would be on their mind and that they might end up bringing him back some kind of treat simply because they felt guilty about being out having fun while he was home sick.
     He sighed and rolled over on the couch and was almost asleep when the cough erupted from his lungs again.  It felt like a giant hand in his chest, squeezing the air from his lungs. He gasped for air and tears rolled down his cheeks as the muscles in his abdomen screamed in pain.  He tried to tighten them so the coughing couldn't do any more damage but his belly still heaved and shook like he were the earth and a terrible quake had just been unleashed along a major fault-line.
    When he woke up later that evening it was to the sound of a key in the doorknob and the chatter of his returning family.  As he had expected, they all had their hands full. There were paper bags and cardboard boxes stuffed with newspaper wrapped treasures.
     The silence of the house ended as Dad strolled over to the TV and pulled out the knob to turn it on, and then turned it to raise the volume. He clicked the large dial through the channels until he found his Sunday evening station, NBC and muttered under his breath as a news broadcast came on instead. Sunday November 4th and a story of more than 50 Americans taken hostage at an American embassy in Tehran by students was replacing the family tradition of watching the Wonderful World of Disney  while eating a “dinner” of pie or cake since their big Sunday meal was usually eaten about 2 in the afternoon after church.
     Bryan started coughing again, and Mom left the packages on the coffee table as she went to the kitchen to make him hot tea and get his medicine.
     Dad snapped the TV off in disgust. “Those hostages will be out of there and home tomorrow, why are they interrupting the regular schedule.”
      Later, after they had devoured a cherry pie and vanilla ice cream and Bryan was back on the couch,  the family decided to start unwrapping the days treasures.  Mom sat down on the floor by the coffee table and the dog crawled over and rested his head on her knee on the green shag carpeting.
     The first several things revealed as the paper was pulled away had the family laughing and Mom defending her purchase of the goofy ceramic Christmas tree and its light bright peg style decorations. There were other hand painted ceramic decorations as well and Bryan had just about drifted into a comfortable, sugar stuffed doze when Dad lifted a large rectangular package onto Bryan's lap.
     He looked up curiously and his brother Mark said, “Don't get all excited. It's nothing fun.”
     Bryan felt the weight on his lap, solid but not heavy.  He reached for the package and knocked on the surface, not a cardboard box.
     The newspaper unwrapped easily revealing a  weathered, dark wooden surface. It was not fancy but the way the smooth wood glowed in the lamplight made him have to reach out and run his fingers over the satiny surface,  It wasn't varnished, but so smooth that it still reflected light.
     The box top was smooth and sloped down toward him, but there was no hinge to lift the lid.  Instead it appeared to be a hollow block.  He looked questioningly at his Dad, who reached over and slid the lid down long two grooved tracks.  A subtle scent of cedar rose from the box and Marc mumbled about girlie perfume, but Bryan was too congested to smell anything.  Looking into the desk he saw that it was basically empty.  There were some ink stains and a couple fragments of paper but nothing else.
     “What is it?”
     “I think it is an antique writing desk.” Dad slid the lid back into place and rested his hand on the slanted surface. With this on your lap, writing could be comfortable done anywhere, but I thought it would make a good treasure chest for a teenager to keep things away from the prying eyes of younger brothers.” 
     Mark snorted in disgust.  Bryan laughed and then wished he hadn't as his protesting lungs began coughing again.

   The rented snowshoes were ugly compared to the round, woven ones in pictures of old trappers, but they were a lot of fun.  Bryan and Mark were racing each other across the snowy meadow and walking wasn't difficult.  When they had started, before they put the snowshoes on, they were wading through knee deep snow or stepping on a crusted surface that would suddenly drop them a few inches or a couple of feet and leave them sprawling face first into the drifts.  The meadow edged up on a wall of evergreen trees and their branches where sagging beneath a heavy load of snow.  Mark walked up next to a tree and poked his snowshoe pole as high up overhead as he could reach. The branches released their heavy, wet burden and an avalanche of snow hit him in the face and shoulders.  
     Bryan hooted in delight, “That was dumb, little brother.”
    The sun was brilliant as it sparkled of the snow, and as Mark shook himself clear, Bryan turned to survey the view.  It was a contrast in light and darkness.  Where the sun shone, the light reflected white and icy brightness, but the shadows of the trees, and his own shadow stretched long and black across the waves of white.
     Everything stretched to the tall mountain gleaming under its own white mantle.  “No Wonder they call Mt. St. Helens the Mt. Fuji of the west” His parents caught up with the boys there.  
     “It does look like those Japanese paintings, especially if you visualize the rolling snowdrifts as a stormy sea” His Dad agreed with his mom's earlier comment and both boys looked again at the inverted “V” of the mountain.  Mom pulled out her camera and snapped a picture of the two brothers with snow on their shoulders and snow on the shoulders of the peak rising in the distance.
     While they were taking a break, Bryan looked longingly at the Summit.  “Someday I am going to stand on the very top.”
     “And I will be right beside you!” Mark was quick to promise.
     “Well, I won't be.” Mom assured them.  My legs are starting to shake  already and there are at least another 4,000 feet of elevation gain between where we are and that peak.”
     Then, listening to her body's signals, she pulled of her gloves and pulled out a snack pouch and began to eat.  Bryan elbowed his brother and pointed at mom to remind him that they both needed to eat and drink as well.
    A short time later the gloves were back on and scarves were wrapping their wind chapped faces.  “time to get moving again,” As they started walking they came across the first other people they had seen in a couple hours. They waved as they crossed paths and kept going.  It wasn't long before they came out above the trees and turned to view the panorama.  The white everywhere about them matched the clouds on the horizon, but the blue sky above them matched the blue of rolling hills and trees below, in between there were dark grey areas of evergreen forest which matched the grey stones poking out of the snow randomly in the otherwise unbroken snow.  Blue, grey and white, and nothing else except the brightness of their own clothing.



  

Verus Cosmus Salvius was born on the day The Mountain shook and Nero came to perform in Naples.  His name was given to mean that the world was ordered and safe, and in his Roman family, even with the ground shaking frequently, he grew up knowing that there was little that could threaten him.  His life had felt secure even though his mother had died two years ago, when he was thirteen. Both his father and the master artisan he was apprenticed to had given him stability and confidence.  He had in turn tried to pass some of that on to his younger brother, Marcus,  who was only 4 when their mother died.
     His father set the box upon the table and gestured for him to come over.  “See This, Verus?  It is a simple box but the craftmanship is good.  I think that it will be useful to you for storing your tools in.”
     Verus glanced at his father's hands as they stroked the silky grain on the lid of the box.  He knew that his father was telling him that he was proud of his work and glad of the good reports he had heard during Verus's apprenticeship. The gift of a tool chest was simply his father's way of expressing himself as words had never come easily for the man whose own talent lay in creating great visual masterpieces.
    “Your mother was given this when we married and used it to write letters and to keep the household accounts. I thought at first to decorate the lid with a mosaic, but the wood is beautiful and I wanted you to be able to use it, as your mother did, as a smooth surface for writing.”
     His father's face pinched in sorrow and his eyes squeezed shut for a moment as thoughts of his lost wife distracted him, them he looked up at their son.  “Your mother and I loved you from the day we knew you were to be born.”
     Verus caught his breath, never before had he heard those words from his father's mouth.
    “When you leave to go to study in Naples, it is my hope that this box will contain those things which you can use to provide for yourself when I am not beside you to help. But also that it will hold a memory in your mind that you were always loved and wanted.”


I like the beginning and it isn't all I have managed, there are several chapters.  So well begun is supposed to be half done but it hasn't quite worked out that way.  Begun a couple years ago and interrupted is more how this book has gone. Still, not forgotten or abandoned and at last I'm back on track to find out who will survive the double eruption to come.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Not Needing Fertile Soil

 Sometimes, writers act like writing needs to flow in an effortless way from the fertile soil of their Muse's garden.  It is as if the only truly creative writing can be done without planting any seeds, or weeding out the imperfect attempts, or toiling under the hot sun, or fighting off the attacking locusts.
 Some of my writing has bloomed like that. Then I am as surprised by the words that flow through my fingertips onto the screen as if they really were written by Duffy Barkley and his friends, telling me as they travel through Uhrlin, what is occurring. Sometimes, I feel like Della, opening her Desk expecting to see her journal, and instead discovering one from 102 years in the future.  I love it when my characters make it easy on me.


 These last few years have not progressed like that.  I find myself on facebook, muttering apologetic words in writing groups, or at school, explaining to readers that, no, The new book isn't done yet.  I blame Writer's block.  But when I don't want to teach and I'm not motivated, I don't blame "teacher's Block."  I don't stay in bed and whimper that I have no motivation.  I get up, go to school, and act out the routine until suddenly one or more of my students inspires me.  I fake it until we all make it, and the students rarely know which days I wanted to be there, and which I dreaded.




This summer there were a lot of excuses not to write, from broken computers to long road trips, to illness and family crisis.  Life wasn't giving me a lot of nitrogen rich soil and water and sunlight.  Then I went on a small day hike. The light was orange because of forest fires burning here in the CA/OR border, it made my aching lungs spasm even more but gave me delightful pictures of the serpentine bogs where Darlingtonia grows in soil rich in metals like copper and nickel and almost without the minerals plants need. No calcium or Nitrogen.  These plants thrive because they live in symbiosis with tiny things that break down the insects they trap, and give the Darlingtonia (also known as Cobra Lily) the nutrients they need to reach their knee high beauty.



 so these little carnivores have reminded me, that it is critical to bloom where you are planted, and if you are not getting what you need, then you need to find a way to create it.  So I'm back in the game again. Writing matters to me. I love sharing my stories and the beauty I find in this world.
Amazon's Dixie Dawn Miller Goode Page! You can view it at:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Moo for me



Ever since I was a child I have had a love affair with books.  I know I am not alone in this.  Can you remember the first books you fell in love with?  I can't quite, but I've been told that they were Chicken Little
and 
a farm animal book, and that I tortured the adults in my life with requests to read and reread them until I had them memorized.  Then I made everyone listen to me as I "read" to them.  I guess what goes around, comes around and now my life is filled with a granddaughter who follows close at my side, begging, "Book!" "BOOK!" and carrying a couple books with her.  The three choices all have farm animals in them, and she patiently turns the pages until the cows show up.  Brown cows or black and white, photograph or cartooned, she begins mooing and looks expectantly at me as I have to  perform, again and again, my only really good animal impersonation, a deep rumbling moo that leaves my glasses vibrating until my nose tickles and her hand rests on my chest where the vibration makes her giggle.
 Children can be exhausting, but also inspiring, and as I have less time and energy, I also find my imagination dredging up new story ideas and material for new details in old stories.  So finally I am at the end of a long, busy school year that saw some writing, but no finishing of novels, and I am often sitting with the child on my knee, but I am suddenly sure where the stories are going and I'm having a great time getting there.
 I look back to old pictures of myself as a child and a teen and I remember hearing even then that I was an old soul, an adult in a child's body, someone who did not fit in with her peers much.  But suddenly I am where I must have always been meant to be.  I do fit in this role, I am a grandma and have always been a caretaker and a storyteller.

Welcome to the summer where everything feels magic, because she has no memory of ever seeing a Cherry tree turn pink, it was that way when she was born - but the blooms quickly blew away.  This ear she sees it and every new sprout and bloom is a fragile but somewhat terrifying thing that must be greeted with delight and awe, and touched with a hesitant single finger, ready to pull back quickly if it hurts or pop into her mouth and savor it, if it is a new, yummy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Changes in publishing and letting go while writing


 I have been living with Duffy Barkley in my head since my own sons were children playing on the beach and in the redwood forest with me, and I would tell them stories, based in part upon the places we found ourselves, so the world Duffy finds himself in, shares many details with the Redwood Coast where I raised my sons, and the Northwest Corner of Wyoming where my grandfather, my mom, and I all grew up.  But it also has a lot of details from out lives, blended with real and imaginary things from the books, movies and news of out time.  In short, when my Mom read my fiction, and told me that she could find me on every page, I was only surprised until I thought about it.

I realize there are only so many plots in the world, and it is how we take in the world around us, take it apart, mix it up and give it our own special twist that makes each storyteller still have something only we can share because only we have experienced our unique life.

So in Duffy's world, you can see the fact that I work with handicapped children and the fact that I love being out in nature far more than being in a city, and that I believe there is strength and joy in diversity.  The times have changed since I started telling these stories.   Even the way I write them and share them has evolved. My first manuscript was written on a typewriter, then when I got a computer, scanned page by page into it. Then I had to go through and change everything the scanner had misread, like g's turned into s, or worse.

Then I edited once on screen and printed it out and read it out loud to my husband and both sons, who were in Jr. high by then but went on long car trips with us when they were a captive audience.
Duffy's "first printing" and the "books" I wrote in grade school
While I read, I penned in changes and additions and corrections and then had to fix it on my computer, which by the way was still not online, then print out a copy and take it to the office supply store and have 4 copies printed (which cost over $100 dollars) and then mailed those around to editors and agents, paying postage and waiting months each time.
 When things finally started to change and books could be attached as a pdf file and sent with an email, it was a great relief for my dwindling savings and when I discovered createspace and print-on-demand I was thrilled and terrified.  Could publishing this way ever make sense?  Anyway, I could rough out a cover and get a proof copy from them and see my story as an actual book, for about $7, way less than the stack of loos photocopied pages.
The first proof copy

Even since I did print that novel in 2010, things keep changing, giving both authors and readers more options as time moves quickly in the book world now.  Kindle and Nook readers seemed incredible with their replica of the printed page at first, and now have kept evolving to come in color and interactive, have kept changing what can be done.  I'm slowly evolving and learning some of the new tricks like actually getting my hand drawn map into pic monkey and adding color, but there is so much more to learn, and the skills of other artists and authors and editors keep it exciting.

The most exciting thing of all to me though, is that once my books started finding readers, I had to realize they were not just mine anymore.  I might have given them to the world, but each reader adds their own interpretation, and takes away different things.  If I write that someone is in a house and I'm seeing a cabin, I can't always know how each reader will visualize the house unless I have been really specific, do they see a plank house, a trailer, an apartment?  I don't control Duffy and friends anymore, now they have slipped into the world as surely as my sons have done.

Princess SeaBee and Boo

Friday, March 6, 2015

Talking to book clubs about my book

I like to think of myself as a writer. Ever since I was a child that is one of the happier labels I have applied to myself.  When I was a child, a preschooler, I was a talker.  My Dad said I had been "vaccinated with a record needle and never stopped talking since."  Yet, as I started school, and learned that the other kids didn't like my non stop talking, and the fact that as an only child until just before I started school had created a child with no idea how to play well with others. I got slapped down hard, and rejected many times and it wasn't until the end of high school that I started to make friends and realize that I could both talk and listen.

So in school my best friends were the characters in books, and I have always considered myself an introvert.  It goes well with being the person who observes and records instead of interacting.  I curled up with my notebook, or hunched over a desk, and rarely made eye contact or had to speak.

Oddly enough though, when my brother was born with Down's syndrome and I learned to work with him, I also learned to be a teacher, and to work in front of large groups of children.  But that was separate.  I could talk to a class, and I could write - but I was too introverted to talk about my books out loud, so on-line I talked, in person I listened.  But Marketing books means you have to believe in them, AND you have to be their loudest, most vocal word of mouth advocate.  If I believed someone would love my story, nothing would happen until I would open my mouth and tell them why they would love my book.

Double Time On The Oregon Trail
So I wrote Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog, and very few people read it, even though I loved it, and the ones who did read it were positive.  Then I wrote Double Time on the Oregon Trail, and I started talking about it to 5th grade students who were studying the Oregon Trail, and then to a 5th grade teacher, who passed it to a School District Director of Curriculum who authorized the Instructional Media Center to order a class set of 38 copies. Then another 5th grade teacher convinced her book club to read it and asked me to come to their meeting and talk about it.  I was scared, but brought my handwritten draft, and some research, and some old storied I wrote in 5th grade myself and talked, and they listened and asked questions and it was fun.
 This year I am in a book club myself, and we read The Invention of Wings and ate dinner at one members house, and then read The Orphan Train and ate dinner at another members house, and it was my turn to be hostess, and I never invite people into my old house, decorated in Early American Yard Sale.  But I'm a good cook, so I said I can do it, and we chose my first book, Duffy Barkley and I cooked and they came over.
My old, chilly, very Green living room
 But what did I learn?  I learned you can't point out where the glasses and the garbage can are, and serve the food, and sit down and present about how you wrote a book, or ask the questions you want your readers to answer about what worked and where they loved, or hated my book.  Going into classes as an author presenter has been fun and satisfying.  Presenting in someone else's home as an author at their book club, I was focused and had planned ahead what to tell them and which questions to ask. In my home I kept wandering out of the conversation, and still missed a lot of what they said about my book
Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog
 So, when you want to market your book to book clubs, it is a good idea.  You do get a group of people willing to spend time and money on your book, but if you find yourself thinking about hosting the book club, find a partner, and focus for that evening, on being a speaker, speaking passionately about a book you really believe in.


 Amazon's Dixie Dawn Miller Goode Page - You can view it at:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004458ES2
Book Genre:  Fantasy/Young Adult/children's picture books

Sunday, February 15, 2015

20th Annual South Coast Writer's Conference - Gold Beach, Oregon

It was a four day, Valentine's Day weekend, with a no student Friday the 13th followed by President's Day.  It could have been a perfect weekend to spend with my husband of 31 years, but we both had plans, 1,000 miles apart.  While he gathered his Choir students and flew to Spokane for the all Northwest Music Festival, I was headed only an hour from home, to the 20th annual South Coast Writer's Conference.  With a few miles of extra driving just to take advantage of the incredibly warm weather and gorgeous beaches between my home and 50 miles north of Gold Beach near the Bandon Cheese and Ice Cream at Facerock Creamery
 and Old Town Bandon and the best divinity and fudge ever at the Big Wheel 

Lighthouse from the Art friendly fishing Docks at Bandon

finding a valentine message on the beach

at face rock beach

 Prehistoric Gardens between Gold Beach and Bandon

 One of my favorite places is an actual wave crashing beach inside this cave
 The seaside hot tubs at my motel were dark and steamy and only me by the time the keynote address finished and I made it back.  What an indulgence.

 The view from my room, they have a lot better views in the more expensive cabins but I knew I'd mostly be out of the room, and this was only $49.00
 Here is the High School track and football field where the conference was held.  For lunch I just ambled down to walk the track.

 Book sales and conversations were plentiful after the workshops Saturday evening.

 and then I escaped just in time to catch the sunset off the jetty



 Yes th conference is great and a wonderful place to learn from other people in the book world, and the workshops I took, flu of them for an hour and a half each, were all interesting and helpful, and the contacts I've made will be good to follow up on, but this conference is over until next year around Valentine's Day.  It is inexpensive, fun, professional and worthwhile if you ever get a chance to participate

http://www.socc.edu/scwriters

here is the post from my other blog about how I learned to overcome writer's block